Energy & Environment

Feds to probe allegations Asian solar manufacturers skirted tariffs

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The Commerce Department on Monday announced an investigation into solar panels imported from four Southeast Asian nations for potential circumvention of tariffs, a move decried by industry groups as potentially devastating the industry.

Commerce announced Monday that it will respond to a petition from California company Auxin Solar. The complaint alleged the panels in question, assembled in Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, were intended to illegally evade U.S. regulations blocking Chinese imports.

The petition alleged the technology assembled in those four countries involves parts manufactured by Chinese companies, and that their manufacture violates decade-old antidumping and countervailing tariffs on Chinese imports.

The department had dismissed a similar petition in November from the group American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention. Tariffs on solar panel components can be as high as 250 percent, and the solar industry cast the decision as a major step backward as the Biden administration pledges to halve carbon emissions by 2030.

“This misstep will have a devastating impact on the U.S. solar market at a time when solar prices are climbing, and project delays and cancellations are adding up,” Solar Energy Industry Association President Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement. “The solar industry is still reeling from a similar tariff petition that surfaced last year. The mere threat of tariffs altered the industry’s growth trajectory and is one of the reasons why we’re now expecting a 19% decline in near-term solar forecasts. Taking up this case will have a chilling effect on the solar industry.”

The move comes the month after President Biden extended Trump-era tariffs on solar cells with some exemptions requested by a bipartisan group of senators. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), one of the senators, was also critical of the Commerce Department decision.

“I’m disappointed that the administration is initiating this investigation because we should be repealing existing solar tariffs, not exploring adding new tariffs,” she said Monday. “Direct assistance to American solar manufacturers would be much more meaningful to our domestic solar industry than a trade investigation or tariffs that will only increase consumer costs, threaten good-paying jobs, and set us even further back from our climate goals.”

Auxin CEO Mamun Rashid said in a statement to The Hill, “For years, Chinese solar producers have refused to fairly price their products in the U.S. and have gone to significant lengths to continue undercutting American manufacturers and workers by establishing circumventing operations in countries not covered by those duties. We are grateful Commerce officials recognized the need to investigate this pervasive backdoor dumping and how it continues to injure American solar producers. Fair trade and enforcement of our trade laws are essential to rebuilding the American solar supply chain and making Solar in America again.”

Tags Auxin Solar Dumping Jacky Rosen Joe Biden Photovoltaics Solar cell Solar energy Solar panel Solar power in the United States

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